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Palace Diner sits on the corner of Park & 21st, an unassuming joint catty-corner from Calvary Church. It’s one of Manhattan’s staples, serving the denizens of Flatiron and Gramercy for well over forty years.

 

A few years back, it fell under the ownership of Osamu Miya — a classically trained chef who swooped in when the restaurant ended up on the market — to no shortage of uproar from the regulars.

 

Kid’s gonna run this place into the ground. Turn it into some hipster joint sellin’ artisanal nonsense for exorbitant prices.

 

But then the staff remained. The same whip-smart, sharp-tongued waitresses flitted from table to table slinging coffee and sass like it’s going out of style. The decor stayed the same. Bar tiny additions from Osamu’s home country — a carved wooden sign written in kanji affixed to the front entry and a Maneki-neko waving its paw next to the old-fashioned register.

 

And most importantly, the menu retained all the classics.

 

Though, if the pancakes and french toast suddenly tasted better, you certainly wouldn’t have heard it from the stubborn regulars.

 

Osamu preferred working the graveyard shift. Extended stretches of quiet gave him plenty of free time to formulate new dessert recipes, to clean the store to the standards of his culinary school senpai (If ya wouldn’t eat yer dinner off th’ floor, then it ain’t clean enough), and to analyze his finances until he went cross-eyed.

 

The other perk of the graveyard shift: the few customers that found their late night refuge in Palace Diner all had stories to tell.

 

Officer Sawamura strolled in around 1:00 AM, ordering a single black coffee and a taiyaki. He’d dig into the pastry with a big smile on his face (Ah, I missed these!) and tell Osamu stories — everything from his childhood in Japan to anecdotes from his patrols.

 

2:00 AM ushered in the first of the partiers and ravers, still in varying states of inebriation. They’d tuck into tall glasses of orange juice, and the greasiest dishes Osamu could muster. Kissing and giggling as they babbled drunken nothingness to one another.

 

On weekdays at 3:00 AM, the night DJ of NYCZ 101.03 — a teeny-tiny middle-aged woman from Jersey who went by the obvious pseudonym of Victoria Wisdom —  strolled in to pick up her regular order. Two gallons of coffee and twenty-four donuts for ‘the morning crew.’ She absolutely loved talking his ear off despite her show still being live (Honey, I put on Stairway to Heaven before I left the station, I got all the time in the world!).

 

4:00 AM brought the university students in, finally crawling back to their dorms and apartments after late night study sessions. They’d order breakfasts to go and pace around, ranting about everything from biochemistry to 18th century romantic literature.

 

Osamu’s favorite customer of the graveyard shift stopped by around 5:00 AM, right as the indigo black of the night began shifting into violet dawn. He’d stumble in, not out of drunkenness but exhaustion, slump into one of the red vinyl bar stools, and pillow his head on the counter. Every night was the same order: coffee — a green eye with one cream and two sugars — and ‘food’ (Just ‘food’? - Eh, surprise me.) The second Osamu set a ceramic plate full of breakfast food on the counter, his head would snap up, the white lenses of his mask growing large. He’d slide that same mask up over his nose, just high enough to reveal his mouth.

 

Spider-Man.

 

Now, Osamu was no stranger to the superpowers roaming the greater Tri-State area.

 

Avengers Tower was right down the street from the diner, if he tilted his head while looking out the window he could see the glowing sign. Captain America did photo ops in nearby Madison Square Garden. Iron Man zipped down Park Avenue, waving at the shouting pedestrians below. Hawkeye occasionally stumbled in, wearing street clothes with bandages all over his face and a one-eyed golden retriever in tow. Hawkeye occasionally stumbled in, wearing tactical gear with bandages all over his face and an eye-rolling Black Widow in tow. 

 

Though, none as familiar as Spidey. 

 

He started showing up a few months after Osamu took ownership of Palace, around the same time he joined the Avengers. Osamu had a theory that Spider-Man scoped the place out during the daytime and felt comfortable enough to come back later.

 

In the last few years, Spider-Man opened up. Well, as much as an individual trying to conceal his secret identity possibly could. He’s Osamu’s age, give or take a few months. He’s from Queens and used to live with his older sister before moving to Manhattan. He was an Avenger, but chose not to live in the tower, for privacy reasons. He’s had powers since high school. 

 

Osamu could’ve read any of that on Spidey’s Wikipedia, so he didn’t pretend he was some special ally of the hero. An acquaintance. A friend, at best.

 

But there were a few ‘exclusives’ Osamu learned. He was familiar enough with Japanese to find Osamu’s family name amusing. (Hah, Miya? Really?) He was a gymnast before becoming a superhero, something he regrets giving up. (My coach told me I could’ve gone to the Olympics. That’d be cheating now, huh?) He has tens of thousands of followers on his personal Instagram account. (They have no clue who I actually am. They just think I’m hot.

 

And more than a few subjective opinions.

 

(His laugh was adorable, loud ha ha has that didn’t match his flat tone of voice.) 

 

(He swiped his tongue along the tip of his left canine to the center of his front teeth — a nervous tic Osamu couldn’t help but feel fascinated by.)

 

(His Instagram followers were probably onto something when they called him hot. Even if Osamu’s only frame of reference was a fit body, a sharp jawline, and a shithead smile.)

 

Ok, so he had a crush on Spider-Man. But come on, who didn’t?

 

Tonight the diner had been empty since Victoria Wisdom left over 2 hours ago. No surprises there. Spring break meant most of the students — both the ravers and the crammers — were either at home or partying it up in Florida. 

 

Poppy Japanese music blared over the diner loudspeakers as Osamu glided around the diner, taking advantage of the empty restaurant to get some cleaning done.

 

Reorganizing the chaotic galley shelves. Giving the glass dessert case a thorough deep clean. Finally changing the batteries of the vintage cat clock.

 

Knees ached as he crouched behind the counter, filling up shallow trays with freshly disinfected silverware. Bells jingled as the door opened. 5:03 AM. “Spider-Man!” He pushed up from his crouch, wincing as his knee cracked. Twenty-five hits you like a pallet of bricks. “It’s good t’ see ya my—”

 

Osamu’s hit with the metallic tang of blood in his nose before he sees it. Burgundy-black staining Spider-Man’s suit. Pale, gloveless fingers pressed tight against his torso. Brighter, fresh blood streamed from his exposed nose down to his chin. Through a shattered hole in his mask’s white lens, a single sharp green eye outlined in winged black stared blankly into the middle distance.

 

The door slammed shut, Spider-Man still in a statue-like daze. Osamu didn’t bother unlatching the gate separating the galley from the rest of the diner, instead vaulting over it. “Spidey?”

 

That eye snapped in Osamu’s direction. Not quite looking at him, rather through him. Watercolor purple and dusty maroon painted his bruised eye socket. A vessel burst had flooded his sclera in vibrant red.

 

“Christ, ya look like shit.” Osamu ferried Spider-Man bodily by the shoulders to a booth, leaving him slumped against the vinyl. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. For fuck’s sake. Calm down. His brain raged as he quickly lowered all the blinds — over the windows and the door.

 

Circling back to the first booth, he reached above Spider-Man’s head for the neon open sign’s chain.

 

A bare hand suddenly gripped his wrist, stopping his momentum instantly. Osamu met Spider-Man’s eye, too focused, too sharp, too fast. “Osamu. Don’t.”

 

“With all due respect, I have a superhero in m’ restaurant bleedin’ to death. I really don’t need customers walkin’ in.”

 

“Lock the door, but leave the sign on.” Spider-Man released his grasp on Osamu, leaving behind bloody prints. His fingers returned to the wound on his torso, letting out a soft gasp of pain. “Ah...a-and I’m not gonna bleed to death.” He had the audacity to laugh, one dripping with bitterness.

 

 “What are ya doin’ here?” Osamu leaned over the table, bringing himself eye level.

 

Spider-Man smiled, teeth slick with blood-tinged spit. “Was in the neighborhood, figured I’d stop by for a bite.”

 

Osamu groaned, pushing away from the table. “Green eye, two sugar, one cream?” Spider-Man’s grin grew, crinkling the corner of his bruised eye.

 

“You know me so well.” Spider-Man’s laugh morphed into a dry cough. “Glass of water and pancakes, too. Buttermilk, with sausage… mm… and hash browns instead of grits?”

 

“How wouldja like yer eggs?”

 

“So forward.”

 

“I won't hesitate to throw ya out.”

 

“You haven’t yet.” Spider-Man straightened himself up, exhaling a tiny hiss of pain as he shifted. “Over-easy.” 

 

Minutes later, Osamu returned with a tray laden with coffee, a glass of water, several plates of food, a first aid kit, and a wet rag. Before it even hit the table, the entire glass was immediately downed in a few large gulps. 

 

Spider-Man reached for the fork, but this time it was Osamu snatching his wrist.

 

“Ah.” He didn’t attempt to pull away. “I’m guessing now's the part of the night where you’re expecting answers.”

 

“Yer smart.” Osamu turned Spider-Man’s hand over to stare at his bloodstained palm. “Start talkin’. I’ll patch you up and then ya can eat.”

 

“Bit of a rough night.” Spider-Man slid his tongue over his top canines and front teeth. That nervous tic of his. Osamu carefully scrubbed at his palm with the rag, trying to dig the dried blood out of black painted nail beds and fingerprint grooves. “Got a tip on a burglary down in East Village. Run of the mill shit.” 

 

“Such language, thought y’all were s’posed to be role models?”

 

“Fuck you.” Osamu released Spider-Man’s hand, finally satisfied with its relative cleanliness. His culinary school senpai wouldn’t approve. Wouldn’t eat his dinner off of it. But Kita-San wasn’t here, was he? “Am I at least allowed to drink my coffee?” He glowered. 

 

“Mhm.” Osamu shifted to crouch next to the booth’s bench. “Slide over here, let me get a look at that wound. And keep talkin’.” Spider-Man obliged, allowing Osamu to slot himself between his thighs.

 

“Are all diner owners also secretly triage nurses? Or did I just get lucky? Ow!” Spider-Man flinched as Osamu dabbed at the bloodied wound with the rag. He had no idea what he was doing. He’d patched up Atsumu several times after that idiot fell off his skateboard back in high school. But nothing prepared him for this. “Turns out it was a trap. I got sold out.”

 

“By who?”

 

“I’m getting there.” He winced again, letting out a soft gasp as Osamu withdrew the rag. 

 

“I read on yer Wiki once that ya have ‘accelerated healin’ powers.’”

 

“Fat lot of good that’s doing for me right now.”

 

“Stop yer fussin’.” With a pair of kitchen scissors, Osamu cut away part of the torn supersuit and pressed a thick piece of gauze to the wound.

 

“So, I get to the site of the so-called burglary to find the place thoroughly unburgled.” He paused to take a long sip of his coffee. A single dark drip trailed from his cut lip to his chin, mixing with dried blood. “No break-in, no smashed glass, no baddies. Not even a damn car alarm going off.”

 

Osamu ripped a strip of medical tape with his teeth before affixing it to the gauze. He glanced up to see that one green eye staring down at him, mouth slightly open.

 

Tongue flicked over front teeth. Nervous tic.

 

“It’s a bit loose. Never gonna stay on.” Spider-Man’s gaze lingered on Osamu, steady, before flicking away. Feigning passing interest in his cup of coffee. Cute.

 

“Unless ya wanna take yer entire supersuit off for me to wrap yer whole torso, this is the best yer gonna get.” Osamu patted a muscular thigh before standing up.

 

“That eager to get my clothes off?”

 

Osamu clicked his tongue in irritation. “Scooch down, face me and sit cross-legged.” Spider-Man nodded as Osamu slid onto the bench in front of him. “And keep fuckin’ talkin’.”

 

“Obviously, I’m a bit irritated but it’s not the first time that’s happened. So, it’s whatever. I’m getting ready to leave when suddenly my Spidey senses are going off like crazy.” Spider-Man paused to allow Osamu to gently wipe the dried blood from his mouth. “Something emerges from the shadows. Ryuusei.”

 

Osamu’s brows furrowed as he racked his brain. There were so many heroes and villains these days it was hard to keep track of them all. ‘Falling Star.’ Didn’t sound familiar in English or Japanese.

 

Something in Spider-Man’s face softened as he chuckled. “Sorry, that’s what we call him in the biz. I think the media calls him Phase?”

 

“Ah.” He knew Phase. Well, not personally.

 

A notorious supervillain who haunted the shadows of Midtown. Literally. Phase’s Wikipedia listed this long-winded origin story about some mystical bullshit he endured that left him with the ability to manipulate shadows. It all seemed a bit contrived, like a comic book written in the 70s and not the actual true story.

 

It probably was false because — despite the property damage and the murders — what Phase was most famous for was his magnificent ability to escape capture. Can’t interview a villain to get his backstory if you can’t pin him down first. The second he’s caught and handcuffed, he slips into a shadow and vanishes. Osamu parsed from trending topics on Twitter and rogue news article titles that S.H.I.E.L.D. were attempting to develop a special restraint system just to try and finally bring Phase to justice.

 

“Anyway, what they won’t tell you on the news is that Ryuusei is actually part of the Sakusa family. I’m sure you’re familiar with them.”

 

Osamu nodded. Back home, the Sakusa-gumi was a well-known crime syndicate headquartered in Arakata City but had strongholds all over Japan. Rumors recently indicated that they’d made significant inroads elsewhere around the world. Sakusa Yumiko, their kumicho, was a shrewd woman who played up the frail old lady aesthetic for the cameras. No one fell for it, though. Sharp, intelligent eyes were difficult to mask.

 

Spider-Man’s visible eye, carefully following his every movement, was evidence enough of that.

 

“My point is… I’d be fine chalking all of this up as a coincidence if I’d gotten a false alarm and run into any old petty thief or small-time villain. But Ryuusei turning up? A high-ranking member of a known crime family affiliated with Kingpin? The exact big bad trying to take me down?” Spider-Man sighed. “I’m not buying it.”

 

“Spidey, why did you come here?” Osamu cupped his face with one hand and carefully swabbed at Spider-Man’s nostrils with the other, clearing out the last of the dried blood from his broken nose.

 

“Call me Rin.” Osamu’s hand went slack, the qtip tumbled from his fingers and disappeared beneath the table. Why was he telling Osamu this? “I think you’ve earned it.”

 

“Alright. Rin. Why did you come here?”

 

“Ryuusei beat the shit out of me.” Rin laughed. “I had to get somewhere safe.”

 

“Avengers Tower? Your sister in Queens? Hell, Mount Sinai’s not that far away. Ya could’ve gotten patched up by a doctor instead of a fuckin’ glorified fry cook.”

 

“Like I said earlier, I got sold out. Led into a trap.” Rin stole a wistful glance at the breakfast food sitting uneaten. “I don’t know who did it. Don’t know who to trust.”

 

“Ya don’t trust your own sister?”

 

Tongue swiped over teeth. Nervous tic.

 

“I get signals fed into my ear through a tiny receiver in my suit.” Rin pointed towards his covered ear for good measure. “Don’t worry, it only goes one way. There’s no mic.”

 

Osamu withdrew his hand from Rin’s face and gently set the dirtied qtips onto the bloody rag. He’d have to do a thorough deep clean of the entire diner after this. But he figured that was a small price to pay for not having to read Spider-Man’s obituary in the morning.

 

“And see, the thing about my signal is… it’s broadcasted from Queens. I set it up myself in our basement. Nearly impossible to hack. So…”

 

“It easily coulda been sent by yer sis.”

 

“Mhm, she’s the most obvious suspect. The Avengers know where the house is, too. I don’t see Mr. Stark selling me to Kingpin but, fuck, dude, anything’s possible.”

 

Osamu leaned against the backrest of the booth to take a look at his handiwork. Rin’s hands and mouth were clean, but pinpricks of blood already seeped through the gauze on his torso. Several smaller lacerations marred his supersuit and body — shallow slashes across his legs and chest — but Rin’s healing factor had already formed near-black scabbing over them.

 

Rin’s eye was the issue, his cornea and the skin around his socket were discolored from internal bleeding. He wouldn’t be surprised if the shattered pieces of the mask’s lenses had cut him up too. But, Osamu chalked that one up as a lost cause. Even half-ripped apart, the mask stayed on.

 

“Ya never answered my question.”

 

Rin sighed. “I’m all patched up, Doc. Can I eat now?”

 

“Mhm.”

 

Osamu watched Rin eagerly dig into the pancakes, slurping up the now-cold eggs as if they were fresh off the griddle. He was in the middle of scarfing down a round piece of breakfast sausage when he finally answered. “I was in the neighborhood. I knew you’d be here and I knew no one else would be.” He said. “I dunno why, but there’s something trustworthy about you.”

 

“Rin.” Osamu pinched the bridge of his nose. “I want ya to be honest with me.”

 

His eyebrow rose, the half-broken VR tech of his eye lenses feebly attempted to replicate the movement. “Mhm?”

 

“Am I in danger?”

 

Rin skewered the final sausage round, shoved the entire thing unceremoniously into his mouth, and chewed slowly. Avoiding the question.

 

“Rin.”

 

“Probably.” He swallowed. “Sorry.”

 

Osamu’s forehead hit the table louder, harder, and far more dramatic than he intended. Silverware clattered. He shifted until his cheek pressed against the table and glanced up. Rin’s masked eye was facing him, but he could still feel the burning side-eyed stare. “How long?”

 

Rin scooped an entire pancake into his mouth. On a different day, in different circumstances, Osamu would probably find this charming. “What time is it?” He spoke through the pancake.

 

Osamu checked his phone. “5:34.”  

 

“Ah.” Rin slid the plate away. “Knowing Ryuusei, I’d say we got another 11 minutes max.”

 

There were approximately eight thousand things Osamu wanted to scream. Why didja drag me into this mess? Why have we been sittin’ here this entire time? Why are we not runnin’ right now? Am I gonna fuckin’ die? 

 

(Why do you trust me?)

 

He clenched his teeth. “Alright, yer the expert here. What’s the plan?”

 

“As backwards as it seems, we’re safest here.” Rin shifted in his seat to face Osamu, wincing in pain. “Well-lit, well-known public place on a busy street. The sun’ll probably be up in twenty minutes or so and the rest of the city’s gonna start waking up with it. Plus, Ryuusei can't handle sunlight."

 

“So we just chill out here like sittin’ ducks, prayin’ yer buddy doesn’t come collect his quarry.”

 

“Pretty much.” 

 

“Alright. Fine. Whatever.” Osamu got to his feet and rapped his fingertips against the table. “But if yer gonna endanger my life, then I’m puttin’ ya to work.”

 

Rin groaned. “I’m bleeding out here, Osamu!”

 

“Poor baby.” Osamu mock pouted as he gathered the dishes into a single stack. “Go wash these, I need t’ disinfect the table.”

 

Rin pressed the gauze on his torso tightly as he crawled out of the booth. He faltered for a brief moment, head swaying. There was a shaky exhale before he straightened.

 

“Ya don’t have to, y’know?” Osamu offered from behind the counter as he poured bleach into a bucket of hot water. “I was mostly jokin’.”

 

Rin flashed him a tiny smile. “I know.”

 

When he started his shift five hours ago, Osamu never imagined it’d involve a wounded Spider-Man in his galley. Washing dishes, quietly humming along to the J-pop that still faintly thrummed through the speakers. 

 

He also never imagined the shadows in his restaurant coalescing to form a tall man in all black.

 

“Hey.” Osamu whispered, nudging Rin with his elbow. “He’s here.”

 

“Got it.” Rin replied, pulling his bloodstained mask down over his mouth. He whirled around and leapt over the countertop in one fell swoop. Surprising ease of movement for someone with at least one broken bone and several glaring lacerations. “Nice to see you again, Ryuusei.” Osamu imagined Rin wore that shithead grin somewhere underneath it all. “If you’re looking for a recommendation, this guy sure toasts the French better than anybody I know.”

 

Ryuusei straightened, night-dark eyes widening slightly as he stared at Osamu. His scowl was apparent by his impressively furrowed eyebrows, despite the tactical mask covering the lower half of his face. “Quiet.” He hissed in Rin’s direction, eyes narrowing. “You know why I’m here.”

 

Osamu carefully slid his hand under the counter, fingers grasping for the handle of one of his sheathed chef knives.

 

“You.” Ryuusei’s eyes snapped in his direction, seemingly detecting the slightest movement. “Hands visible.” Osamu obliged.

 

“You can leave him outta this.” Rin took a hesitant step in Ryuusei’s direction. “I coerced him into helping me, he’s innocent.”

 

“And they call me a villain.” He raised his chin in haughty arrogance. “Lying isn’t a good look for a so-called hero.” 

 

Tongue slid over teeth. Nervous tic. Osamu didn’t need to see it to understand Rin’s silence.

 

Beat.

 

Beat.

 

Rin dashed forwards, shooting a web at a barstool to increase his momentum. Night-black eyes merely stared, unamused by the drama of it all. 

 

A sweeping kick. 

 

Ryuusei laughed, low and harsh, before phasing into shadow. 

 

Missed. 

 

Rin collided with a table, falling to the floor with a low groan.

 

“Pathetic.” Ryuusei reappeared, his stance wide and low. Long, thin sickle-shaped claws sprouted from his gloved hands.

 

Rin pushed himself up. The gauze on his torso was soaked in blood again, the medical tape peeling off. “Phasing is cheating, Sakusa.”

 

With a large arcing swipe, Ryuusei grazed the flesh of Rin’s arm with his claws. “Never take a fair fight.” An elbow met a masked face, shattering more of the white lens. “I don’t recall giving you permission to call me by my name.”

 

Rin let out a choked sound as Ryuusei gripped his neck and lifted him upwards. “Wh...o tipped y...ou off?” He hissed.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Ryuusei growled before violently throwing Rin across the diner. A loud clatter echoed as his skull slammed into the glass dessert case. 

 

Beat. 

 

Ryuusei slowly glided toward Rin's unmoving body.

 

Beat. 

 

He wasn’t paying attention, all focus was on his opponent.

 

Beat. 

 

Osamu grabbed the knife then clambered over the counter, with half the finesse as his superpowered friend.

 

Beat.

 

Rin stared up at him, still conscious. That single green eye begging him Don’t do this.

 

You’ll die.

 

He and Atsumu had gone axe throwing once. One of those hipster speakeasy-esque venues that existed solely to be posted about on Instagram. Pretentious craft beers and sharp objects, always a good combination. Atsumu was shit at it, to his endless chagrin. Osamu? Decent.

 

This wasn’t that different. Right?

 

Beat. 

 

Inhale. 

 

Wind-up.

 

Throw.

 

Ryuusei cried out, as the knife embedded into his back.

 

He phased into the shadows, knife clattering to the floor.

 

“You’re an idiot, y’know that right?” Rin laughed into the floor, sound muffled by his mask. He exhaled a guttural groan as he attempted to right himself, weak arms shaking before thumping back against the linoleum.

 

In a split-second, Osamu found himself on the floor, hauling Rin’s upper body into his lap. “‘Least he’s gone.”

 

Tremors shook Rin’s arms as he fumbled to lift the mask up to his nose. His open mouth bubbled with red-tinged spit. “No…” He smiled, a gruesome sight. “He’s healing himself in the shadows. He’ll be back any second now.”

 

“He’s gonna kill ya.”

 

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Rin wheezed. “Ah, the sun’s coming up.” Weak light filtered through the blinds. 5:43, the cat clock on the wall indicated. “We might actually get lucky.”

 

“Rin.” The name slipped through Osamu’s lips, feather soft. “Can ya get up?”

 

“Mhm. It’ll hurt like a bitch, but my legs are fine.” Rin sighed. “I’ll need your help.”

 

“Just tell me what ya need.”

 

Osamu carefully followed his instructions, tucking his hands between Rin’s biceps and chest to hold him steady. “Fuck.” Arms slipped around Osamu’s waist as they rose together. Warmth spidered along his spine as fingertips brushed against a sliver of skin. “I wish I was Wolverine.”

 

“Ya really wanna be a foot shorter?” Osamu tightened his grip as Rin swayed.

 

“N…no way.” Rin leaned into him, pressing Osamu’s back against the dessert case. Warm breath tickled flesh as Rin laughed in his ear. “I take it back.”

 

“Rin, we…”

 

Can’t stay like this.

 

Though, he dreamed they could.

 

In a different scenario. One with significantly less blood.

 

Tentative peace came crashing down as the shadows coalesced into the inky black form of Ryuusei. A hiss, as the traces of dawn light stung at his skin. “He can’t stay long.” Rin whispered, lips brushing against Osamu’s ear. “Probably will just throw down the gauntlet and sneer. Hidden superpower of his.”

 

“Spider-Man.”

 

No.

 

Osamu squeezed out of Rin’s grip, spreading his arms wide. “Stay away from him.”

 

“Cute, but a bit cliched.” Ryuusei’s claws slid out. “Do better next time.”

 

There was that feeling again, fingers gently pressing against his back before curling to grasp his shirt. Osamu understood. Don’t do this. I won’t let you get hurt. 

 

It’s okay, Rin. I just hafta stall a lil’ bit longer.

 

“Get out of my diner.” Clenched teeth, dull pain spiking through his jaw. 

 

“Osamu.” Rin's voice, from behind him.

 

Time froze. If real life were like a comic book, Osamu imagined his name bold across the entire panel as Rin spoke it.

 

Then, a scoff. 

 

"I thought you looked familiar. Miya Osamu." A sharp shink echoed through the diner as Ryuusei's claws retracted into his gloves. "Of course, you'd cower behind him, Spider-Man."

 

Osamu had stalled long enough.

 

Ryuusei hissed as the sunrise swallowed the last of the night, casting burning streams of light on his body. "Don't you dare get in my way again, Miya."

 

Osamu held his breath as the villain slipped into a shadow and vanished into the city.

 

5:53.

 

“Osamu.”

 

He knew what Rin was thinking.

 

“What…”

 

He didn’t have an answer.

 

“How does he know you?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Osa…”

 

"I said I don't know, Rin." He whirled around to see that one green eye wide — in shock, in confusion, in fear, in betrayal, perhaps — and lips parted slightly. "You said ya trusted me." Still don't know why. "Trust me."

 

"I…" Rin sighed. "Okay."

 

A soft thump came from behind them. The door. Even through the distance between him and Rin, he could feel his muscles tense up. Then, a loud knock on the glass door and a muffled voice. "Shit. Rin, you gotta hide." Osamu pushed him away gently, to Rin's protest. "Please. It's my employee." The lock mechanism clicked and the door opened as Rin ducked behind the counter.

 

"Morning, Mr. Miya!" The morning shift lead was a peppy college student who's worked at Palace since she was a high schooler — long before Osamu bought the place. She dangled her key ring in front of her face. "Hope it's okay I let myself in. Why was the door locked?"

 

"Ah, morning Nina." Osamu smiled, praying to the heavens there wasn't any blood anywhere on his person. There were a handful of chairs knocked over and a barely visible smear of blood on the dessert case. I gotta get her outta here before she starts askin' questions. "I wanted to get some cleanin' done before ya got here. Been a slow night."

 

"Oh, okay." Nina flashed a brilliant grin.

 

Osamu felt a tug on the hem of his pants.

 

“Say, ya wouldn’t mind headin’ to the bodega and grabbin’ me an energy drink and a lox bagel?” Osamu fished in his pocket for his wallet and tossed it to her. “Ya can use the company card. Get whatever you’d like for yerself, too.”

 

Nina nodded. "You got it, boss. Thank ya!" She pocketed the wallet before leaving again.

 

"Smart." 

 

“What’re we gonna do ‘bout this, Rin?” 

 

Rin gave him a shaky smile. “He’s gonna come for me again, probably. Gonna have to keep a low profile, try and not get baited into more bullshit, and figure out who the hell’s got it out for me.”

 

“I mean… like… right now.”

 

“Oh. Oh.” Rin glanced down at the wound on his torso, the gauze half-fallen off. A burgundy scab had already begun forming. The slashes on his arm were no longer bleeding. Lucky bastard. “I look like shit, you got any clothes?”

 

“Er… Yeah.” Osamu nodded, leaving Rin leaning against the counter to fetch his bag. “I go to the gym after work.”

 

“Christ… are you a fucking serial killer?” Osamu tossed him a balled up hoodie and a pair of athletic shorts.

 

“If ya wanna go outside lookin like a corpse, be my guest.” Osamu pulled his running shoes out and slid them along the floor. “Bring those back to me, they were expensive.”

 

Rin slipped into the bathroom and Osamu got to work cleaning up the last of the mess. The errant bloodstain on the dessert case. The chairs knocked over. The rogue qtip fallen on the floor beneath booth #1. 

 

“I’m a bit of an eyesore.”

 

Osamu turned to see Rin, maskless, hood up, pointing at his black eye. It looked worse than he'd expected. But the edges had already shifted from violent violet to yellowish-green indicative of healing.

 

Despite the black eye, broken nose, and split lip, it was pretty clear his Instagram followers were onto something.

 

“Lame.” 

 

“Hey, I gotta do something to keep up the whole ‘Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’ shtick.” He slid into a barstool and leaned on the counter.

 

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Osamu dumped a heaping scoop of coffee into the machine, avoiding looking at him. “Maybe some comedy lessons?”

 

“Ha ha, and you say my jokes are bad.” Rin spoke dryly. “I’m gonna finally get some sleep but I’m in no rush. When are you off work?”

 

“Spider-Man.” Osamu crossed his arms. “Are ya tryna flirt with me?”

 

“Have been all night. Thanks for finally noticing.”

 

Ah.

 

“Well, in my defense…” Osamu gestured with a big wave and an eyeroll. “I’ve been a bit distracted.”

 

“So…” Rin leaned forward, shithead smile in full effect.

 

“I work ‘til 8.” Osamu rested his elbows on the countertop, bringing himself eye level with Rin. “But considerin' the night I just had, I was plannin' on lettin' Nina take over for the rest of the mornin' and head home."

 

Tongue. Teeth. Nervous tic.

 

Though, Rin’s olive eyes were hardly nervous.

 

“I’ll get out of here, so I don’t give your employee a heart attack.” He grinned. “But... if you want, I’ll wait for you.”

 

When Osamu started this shift earlier, he expected a slow night. Officer Sawamura and his taiyaki. Some clubbers and their greasy hangover meals. Victoria Wisdom dispensing her strange philosophies on life. 

 

Getting propositioned by Spider-Man, who just had his shit kicked in by one of the most notorious supervillains in NYC, was pretty low on that list.

 

The crazier thing is...

 

“Okay.” 

 

Rin tentatively reached out, hand hovering next to Osamu's jawline. Their eyes met, Rin's narrow green silently asking. Osamu smiled. Go for it.

 

Warm fingers gripped his jaw and pulled him closer, closer, closer. Osamu held his breath as Rin's split lip brushed against his own. Iron and coffee and breakfast sausage.

 

"Thank you." Rin whispered as they parted, warm air fanning over Osamu's lips. "Sorry for getting you into this mess."

 

Osamu exhaled before pressing a final languid kiss to Rin's mouth. "No, yer not."

 

Rin laughed, those adorable ha ha has that never matched his voice. "Okay, perhaps not." He slipped the hand out from beneath Osamu's jaw, swiping a calloused thumb pad over his chin as he retreated. "But don't worry, I'll keep you safe."

 

“Get outta my diner.”

 

“See you in a few.” A wink, a final slide of his tongue over his teeth, then he was gone, vanishing out the door and into the post-dawn morning.

 

 


 

 

Elsewhere

Flatiron District, Manhattan, New York City

 

His alarm blared for the second time that morning, the obnoxious klaxon that came default with the phone. He snoozed it once again, ignoring the message declaring this was his last snooze before the alarm deactivated.

 

Most days, he was eager to get up. He always was a morning person. Running down 23rd St before the rest of the city was even out of bed. Cooking a reasonably healthy breakfast… decently. Arriving at work bright-eyed while his co-workers and photographers are already tucking into their third latte of the day.

 

But it’d been a long night.

 

Long phone calls with Kingpin’s underbosses (There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell they would let him talk to the big man himself.) Illicit meetings with Ryuusei on rooftops. Taking two trains and a bus ride to a row house in Queens so he could hack into a secret comm system. Then making the long haul back to Manhattan to try and snag a little bit of sleep before work.

 

After all, betraying your superhuman ex-boyfriend is exhausting.

 

The klaxon blared for the third time before finally shutting off for good. A skinny sliver of light peeking through a gap in his curtains burned red through his eyelids.

 

“Are you ever planning on getting up?” The voice was dry, unamused.

 

He jerked up, frantically pulling his sheets against his bare chest. Then exhaled when he recognized the figure in his room.

 

“Sakusa.”

 

“Seriously.” Sakusa, still dressed in his tactical gear, sat in a recliner in the corner, legs crossed with his head leaned onto a fist. “Get up.”

 

Seriously, get up.” He grumbled, mockingly, as he pulled himself to the edge of the bed. He peeked out the curtains to take in the sunrise. Sakusa hissed as the sunlight entered the darkened room. “We need to get you some sunscreen, or something.”

 

“Funny.” 

 

“How’d it go?” He pulled the curtain fully closed, drowning the room in the darkness Sakusa preferred. “I’m guessing since you’re here, you failed.”

 

Sakusa sighed. “He turned up exactly where you said he would. Took the bait.”

 

“But?”

 

“We fought, but he ran. I lost his trail but found him in Gramercy shortly before the sun rose.”

 

“Mhm, and?”

 

“He was being protected.”

 

“Protected? By who? Another super? A civilian?” He laughed. “Didn’t take you for someone afraid to hurt an innocent.”

 

Sakusa growled. “I’m not.” He stood up and glided towards the bed. He lowered his tactical mask to whisper into the man’s ear. “I had strict orders not to harm him.”

 

“Wh…” He started. Gramercy was just around the corner. Most of the civilians there were unaffiliated.

 

Ah.

 

Palace Diner.

 

“Eight million people in this entire goddamn city.” He pinched his brow. “And Spider-Man just had to end up in Osamu’s restaurant.”

 

“Kingpin will not be pleased. We never should’ve taken you in.” Sakusa’s lip curled. “Too many attachments.”

 

He was about to fight back with a quip of his own when his phone rang, a poppy beat from home.

 

“Ah, there he is.” He glanced at Sakusa, offering an uneasy smile. “You’re to blame for this too, Sakusa. But it's fine. We’ll figure it out.”

 

Sakusa’s face fell to its default state of quiet disgust. 

 

“You should go.” He tentatively touched Sakusa’s gloved hand, letting his bare fingers glide over nylon. Sakusa nodded before pressing a single chaste kiss to his mouth, as fleeting as a shadow. He phased into darkness, leaving him alone in an empty bedroom as Perfume blared on his phone.

 

“Yo, morning.” He spoke into the receiver.

 

“Hey, are you still home?” Osamu asked.

 

“Mhm, but I’m leaving in a couple.” He yawned. “Why’dya ask?”

 

“I’m gettin’ off work soon. Was plannin’ on makin' some breakfast, just figured I’d ask if ya wanted some.”

 

“Nah, I’ll be gone by then.”

 

“Bummer.” Osamu didn’t sound too broken up about it. “See ya for dinner, then?”

 

“Yeah. My turn to cook tonight, right?” Silence. The tell-tale sign that Osamu just nodded, forgetting they can’t see each other face to face. “Text me what ya want, I’ll grab the ingredients on the way home.”

 

“Will do. See ya later, Tsumu.”

 

“See ya.”

 

Atsumu sighed after Osamu hung up, setting his phone back on the side table.

 

Samu. Samu. Samu.

 

What have you done?